Always An Time

This past weekend was randomly a long weekend for both the chap and me, so naturally we had to plan a getaway. The dog was at doggy band camp..err boot camp for well-mannered beasts, three days alone…it was fate…until weather interfered with every destination on the Eastern Seaboard. Literally. All of them. Charleston, Asheville, Pinehurst, Williamsburg, and even this fancy Primland resort that looks so romantic were all saturated with gross, old hurricanes or something.

Since we didn’t see a point in travelling, we opted for a fancy date night instead. I needed an excuse to wear my new sort of fab/sort of cool-as-hell-I-just-threw-this-on date night dressed recently purchased from Bloomie’s in Chicago with the bestie (more on that later)…so I suggested we try An (pronounced ‘on’).

An is an upscale Asian fusion restaurant

with a good sushi bar. It’s one of the few places in the area that makes you forget that you’re in the south which can be a relief at times. We sat in the dimly lit, romantic dining room, where an army of serves flit about you, anticipating your every need, yet fail to be intrusive. People dress up! What a relief and something not often seen in this part of the world.

An has a great list of hot appetizers, sushi, and entrees, all of which you want. Decisions cannot be made! Luckily they have an eight course tasting menu to combat that challenge. The chap and I are both control freaks and decided that we’d better order for ourselves. Eight courses of freedom skipped over our narrowed down “must-haves” from the main menu.

The best thing that we ate was the first, pork and buns. Succulent pork belly and yuzu served alongside kimchi cucumbers, all to be served in pillowy lotus buns. Heaven! If we would have had three courses of this and wine, my night would have been perfect right there. This is truly one of the best things I’ve eaten in Raleigh.

Next up was our sample from the sushi menu. We tried a charming roll named, “A Tale of Two Tunas.” This was a spicy tuna tartare roll topped with tuna, fried garlic, and scallions. Again, absolutely delicious, and something I’d happily eat on the daily.

The menu also featured some beautiful sashimi, including toro, which the chap attempted to order, but was met with the rebuttal that it was out of season so they weren’t serving it. Bummer.

A server then stopped by our table with several types of freshly baked bread. An Asian restaurant with a bread basket can only earn high marks in my book. There was a tiny corn muffin and a tiny currant scone served with local honey. I failed to snap photos as we gobbled them up so quickly!

Really, we could have cut our meal here and gone for nightcaps, but we had ordered entrees! I had the sea bass. It sounded best to me and the waiter said it was the thing to try. The bass is spiced with citrus and topped with eggplant and cucumber. Not to mention, check out those gorgeous flower petals for color and texture! The whole shebang sits upon a mound of jasmine rice around which is a coconut curry broth is poured table side by the waiter. Divine! The portion size was more than fair and after heavy previous courses I could only finish about half. Trop mal!

The chap had the duck breast, cooked medium, seasoned with tea spice and ginseng tonic, the dish was quite unique. It featured banana puree and tiny veggies that looked like minuscule aloe plants. Neither of us could guess what the dish could possibly taste like when ordering, but it was also delicious. The duck was cooked perfectly, I was able to snag a bite, but the item didn’t photograph well, so I’ll leave that to your imagination.

For dessert we tried the “Summer Corn.” This strange smorgasbord consisted of bits of almond cornmeal cake, roasted peaches, fresh blackberries, popcorn, and a scoop of blackberry sorbet that looked like a bleeding heart after it had a slight push around the plate. The dessert was interesting to look at, but was rather bland. We were so disappointed in our sweet splurge that we ordered ANOTHER dessert, cookies made to order.

The plan was to take our cookies and head home for a last bite and a movie. That was until the bus to the five star hotel, The Umstead, came by just as we were leaving. Naturally, we hopped on the bus and headed to the hotel. I told another couple on the bus, also packing cookies, that we were visiting from Austin and just loved the rooms at the hotel. We proceeded to discuss the transformation of Austin City Limits over time, had a night cap, judged some wedding attire from a nook in the lobby, and finally headed home. Pretty great night! And while indulgent, the treat was a financial respite from a night or two out of town. Five star date night.

Here’s a shot of a Chihuly installation (my favorite) in the lobby of the beautiful

Umstead Hotel

.

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